EU set to decide on BA, American, Iberia by July

* EU decision expected in June or July

* United States has given tentative approval

* Almunia says supports consolidation in sector

* Three carriers have offered antitrust remedies

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS, April 19 (BestGrowthStock) – EU regulators will decide by
July whether to clear or block a plan by British Airways
(BAY.L: ), American Airlines (AMR.N: ) and Iberia (IBLA.MC: ) to
deepen their Oneworld alliance, the EU’s antitrust chief said on
Monday.

The European Commission is reviewing the results of a market
test on concessions offered by the three companies last month to
gain European Union antitrust immunity for their alliance.

Asked when a decision was expected, European Competition
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters on the sidelines of a
briefing organised by the European Policy Centre think tank: “In
June or July.”

He had earlier told the briefing the Commission favoured
mergers in the airline industry.

“The trend towards consolidation in this sector is a
reality, one that we support,” Almunia said.

“When analysing mergers and alliances in the sector, we are
mindful of the benefits and scope for the industry in terms of
international competition but also of the need to ensure that
consumers do not pay the price for it.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation gave tentative
approval for the alliance in February. Airlines see such tie-ups
as a lucrative alternative to mergers and large-scale
investments.

The three companies have proposed giving up some landing and
take-off slots for routes from London to Dallas, London to
Boston, London to Miami and possibly London to New York if
competitive conditions change.

They also want to allow access to their frequent flyer
programmes on those routes as well as London-Chicago and
Madrid-Miami and to submit data on their cooperation plan.
Rival Virgin Atlantic opposes the strengthened alliance,
saying the antitrust concessions are woefully inadequate.

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(Editing by Timothy Heritage)

EU set to decide on BA, American, Iberia by July